Learning from Near-death Choices
Saturday, December 01, 2012
I try to meditate each day with varying degrees of success. Today, instead of using my normal guided meditation, I decided to watch inspirational videos at TED.com. The collection today was titled "What We Can Learn from Near-death Choices," and featured five speakers, three of whom I listened to and took notes in between the tears and the laughter. Here are their lessons.
Ric Elias relates his brush with death as a passenger on US Airways Flight 1549 (Miracle on the Hudson). His most important lesson: Life can change in an instant, so get rid of negative energy, and don't waste time doing things that don't matter with people who do.
Candy Chang creates public art that people interact with (such as asking a question and inviting people to answer on a chalk board or post-it notes). When she asked, "Before I die, I want to ____," answers ranged from whimsical to heart-wrenching, and the concept has spread around the world, letting people have a voice through art.
The most inspirational to me was former Australian Olympian Janine Shepherd, who suffered a crippling cycling accident (struck by a speeding truck) that ended her Olympic career. The accident was so horrific with multiple broken bones (including broken neck and crushed back), massive blood loss, body ripped open and filled with gravel, that it's amazing she is alive and coherent, let alone that she can walk. Yet she is and she does (with limitations).
Her talk reflects on the impact of a broken body on one's dreams: the depression at the loss of everything previously valued and worked for; the uncertainty at how to move forward; the discovery of new dreams; the unbinding of creativity. She relates how, after she returned home from months in the hospital spinal ward, she looked at a passing plane, and, in a flash of inspiration, decided that if she couldn't walk, she would fly and made a booking for a lesson. Unable to walk at the time and in a body cast, she had to get someone to drive her to the airport. With humor, she describes how the instructors "drew straws" to see who had to go up with her. Then...they were in the air! She was unable to use the rudders, so the instructor took them up, passed hand control to her, and she was flying! The experience unleashed within her a dream, and she poured all her talent at planning into how to make the dream reality and all her pent-up determination into walking again. Within 18 months of that first flying experience, she was walking, and she earned her private pilot license, her instrument rating, her twin-engine rating, her commercial license, her flight instructor rating, and, unstoppable, her aerobatic instructor rating.
Her conclusion: The body may be limited, but the spirit is not, so shed the physical and embrace the virtues of the heart.